My bishop has been a great supporter of me being an authentically gay man who is also active in the Church and our ward. He asked me to write a letter to him explaining my feelings and experiences, and what I have learned that has helped me on my journey to authentically accept who I am as a gay man and find my mission and purpose as a Mormon. Here is what I wrote to him…
Being gay or same-sex oriented as a Latter-day Saint has been the biggest challenge of my life. For most of my life, I managed to suppress and hide the feelings I had. I prayed and fasted repeatedly for years to have those feelings removed from me.
Ever since I was a youth, I was convinced that if I was diligent and faithful in keeping the commandments, that I would be changed and my same-sex attraction would go away. I suppressed and hid my SSA feelings, and repented whenever those feelings kept returning. I followed the advice of Church leaders to fill my life with good things and make scripture study and prayer a major part of my daily life and in my battle against SSA. I lived a life of hyper-religiosity, all in an attempt to “earn” the Lord’s blessing to free me from the evils of the SSA curse.
Little did I realize at the time how unhealthy and counter-productive this would be. Cultivating personal righteousness is always good and always has its benefits, and I will never regret those efforts. However, it was the expectation that I could earn a specific blessing (even a righteous desire) as a reward for my righteousness was where it became a problem.
When I was in my 40s, and continued to experience powerful SSA feelings, what I had always done in the past to suppress those feelings was no longer sufficient. The level of spiritual and emotional effort required to suppress and ignore my SSA feelings was just not going to be sustainable.
I thought surely I had done everything I could do to be worthy of being cured, and for some reason the Lord was not rewarding me with my righteous desire. It became very disheartening. For many people in this same situation, it is at this point where they lose their faith, feeling somehow betrayed that the Lord didn’t keep his promise to grant their righteous desire. I too went through this spiritual crisis.
I was feeling very let down, and it would have been very easy to blame God or to deny his existence, but I could not ignore the love I have always felt from him. I eventually began to realize that my disappointment was probably a result of my own incorrect way of thinking about my situation. I started to evaluate from a different perspective and learned some life-changing things.
What I learned is that cultivating personal righteousness can only go so far, and that ultimately I was going to have to come to terms with my sexual orientation in an authentic way. All these years of suppressing and being inauthentic about my sexual orientation took its toll on me emotionally and spiritually.
What has made all the difference for me and my relationship with my Heavenly Father is receiving the witness that I am not broken. I have not been cursed with a disease called SSA, and I do not need to be cured. I know now that the Lord not only loves and accepts me as I am, but that he created me this way for a purpose. I realized that my sexual orientation is about a lot more than just physical intimacy, and that it is deeply integrated into who I am — my very essence and identity. God created me with my sexual orientation and all of the characteristics, traits, talents, and spiritual gifts that are closely intertwined with it. Trying to change my sexual orientation is in effect trying to undo what the Lord has done for me, and rejecting the spiritual gifts he has given me.
Instead of feeling cursed and ashamed, I now feel blessed to be a gay son of my Heavenly Father. I have shared this about me individually with my entire family, and have received great outpourings of love and acceptance from most of them. I am living my life more authentically than ever before, and it has brought me closer to the Savior.
As with any spiritual gifts, we have to figure out what those gifts are and what the Lord wants us to do with them. I feel strongly that same-sex oriented members all have a mission to perform and that we are desperately needed in the Church. The Lord needs us in his kingdom and has a special work for us to perform.
It’s not easy to be gay in the Church right now as some are still trying to figure out how to overcome their own biases and the cultural prejudices of their upbringing. But I believe the Lord is helping them do so, and it is just a matter of time.
I believe in the Ninth Article of Faith that states that Heavenly Father “will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” I believe that further light and knowledge concerning the role and importance of same-sex oriented members in the Church is coming, and it gives me hope. In the meantime, we can each seek the Lord’s revelation to us personally, guiding us to the mission he has for us to do, and how to utilize the spiritual gifts he has given us to accomplish that work.
Ever since I came to these realizations, I have felt increased gratitude for the gifts my loving Father in Heaven has given me as one of his gay sons. I know that gay members of the Church can rest assured that He loves us perfectly, and most importantly that we belong in His kingdom. This is our home, and we have an eternal right to be here and to fellowship with Saints just as much as anyone. We have a sacred mission to perform that I am convinced no one else can do. The Lord needs us!
The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is true. God’s promises are real, his blessings are sure, and they apply equally to those of us who are same-sex oriented as they do to any other member of the Church. This is a critical time for same-sex oriented members to hold fast to our faith and boldly claim the blessings to which we are entitled as sons and daughters of God.